We speak only to the degree we are spoken to.

Tim Keller proves this idea by quoting Eugene Peterson in p.55 who highlights the way a child picks up language.

“Because we learned language so early in our lives we have no memory of the process” and would therefore imagine that it was we who took the initiative to learn how to speak. However, that is not the case. “Language is spoken into us; we learn language only as we are spoken to. We are plunged at birth into a sea of language… Then slowly syllable by syllable we acquire the capacity to answer: mama, papa, bottle, blanket, yes, no. Not one of these words was a first word…All speech is answering speech. We were all spoken to before we spoke.”

It is therefore essential to the practice of prayer to recognise what Peterson calls the “overwhelming previousness of God’s speech to our prayers.” This theological principle…means that our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. We should “plunge ourselves into the sea” of God’s language, the Bible. We should listen, study, think, reflect, and ponder the Scriptures until there is an answering response in our hearts and minds. It may be one of shame or of joy or of confusion or of appeal-but that response to God’s speech is then truly prayer and should be given to God.

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